The mystery of Mr. X
He committed the most massive case of charity fraud in U.S. history. On Tuesday, the defense rested in the case of Mr. X without a single witness taking the stand.
It’s a real life “Catch Me If You Can” story that goes from Florida to Seattle before ending in Portland, Oregon.
“I’ve seen fugitives hide in plain sight before, but I’ve never seen a fugitive hide in plain sight like this,” says U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott.
For years, the man formerly known as “Mr. X” or “Bobby Thompson” ran a fake charity called the “U.S. Navy Veterans Association” that allegedly stole over $100 million from donors.
Helen McMurray was the attorney for the organization and a former fraud prosecutor. Even she was taken in by the scam.
“He was the greatest patriot. My whole family is Navy. I was thrilled to be able to help an association that was going to be helping people like my dad, my brother, and my uncles,” says McMurray.
Mr. X used some of the donation money to pay to get into high-profile political fundraisers so he could take pictures with people like Former President Bill Clinton, Former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, and House Speaker John Boehner. He then used the photos to try to legitimize his organization.
It was McMurray who finally got suspicious after she found a fraudulent accounting book. She called the FBI and the chase was on.
For two years, the man going by the name Bobby Thompson, and several other identities, eluded capture. Traveling only by bus, he went from Florida to New York and Rhode Island, then west to Arizona, California, and Seattle.
“At one location, he was an employee at Boeing,” says U.S. Marshall William Bolton. “At another location, he was a visiting scholar or professor from a university.”
Bolton is the man who finally tracked down Mr. X at a pub in Portland. He followed the man back to the house where he was renting a room. Inside, they found three wallets with three different IDs. They also found a single DVD, “Catch Me if You Can.”
“In my 20-some years of law enforcement, he’s the best. This was his game and he loved it,” says Elliott.
Agents found a million dollars in cash in a storage unit rented by Bobby Thompson.
The feds were confident this was their guy, but Elliot says they still didn’t know who they had in custody. The suspect even signed his name “Mr. X” when he was booked into jail.
It took five months before Elliot finally discovered his true identity. After searching Google images, he came upon an FBI Most Wanted poster from 1984.
The wanted man was named “John Donald Cody,” a Harvard-trained attorney wanted for fraud and espionage. Even the fingerprints were a match.
As trial got underway, Mr. X still didn’t want to make it easy. He has continued to refuse to admit to his real identity. While the prosecution called several witnesses, the defense did not call a single person to the stand, not even Mr. X himself.
Thompson’s attorney, Joseph Patituce, told ABC News he believes his client is innocent. He says Mr. X is working as part of an elaborate plot by the CIA to gain political support.
Closing arguments start on Wednesday.